Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Studies of Bradbury

I'm drafting the introduction to my PhD thesis, and have compiled some bibliographical crib sheets to keep on hand to make sure I don't miss out anything important. I thought this one might be useful to publish here. It's a list of key studies of Ray Bradbury's works.

It's not exhaustive, but it covers all the studies that get mentioned somewhere in my thesis. Even then, I'm bound to have missed something out.

If you want something more pictorial, check my Books About Ray Bradbury page.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fahrenheit 451 Special Issue

The Fahrenheit 451 special issue of The New Ray Bradbury Review, edited by yours truly, has finally landed in the UK. This fifth issue of the journal produced by the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies is a fiftieth anniversary celebration of Francois Truffaut's 1966 film based on Bradbury's classic novel.

Copies of the journal began to appear last month, but it has taken a while for it to make its way across the pond. You can order directly from the publisher, Kent State University Press, or from Amazon, using the links below.

Here's the official flyer which explains what the issue is about. I wrote the original copy for the flyer. I also wrote the introduction to the issue, and the essay which concludes the issue. Other contributors include Jon Eller (author of Becoming Ray Bradbury), Bill Touponce (co-author with Jon of Ray Bradbury: the Life of Fiction), and film scholar Joseph McBride (author of Steven Spielberg: a Biography and Whatever Happened to Orson Welles, among many others).

Order from Kent State University Press:

Order from Amazon (US):

Order from Amazon (UK):


As of today,Bradburymedia has a Twitter feed, which you should see over there on the right.* It will mainly carry things that I have posted to the Facebook page of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies (which I administer). Please click the links and 'like' the posts!

*Except on mobile devices. I'm working on it...

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Bradburymedia has had a very slight facelift (the old template was getting almost impossible to modify, so I had to switch to a new one). Rest assured that the old content is still here.

I haven't posted much lately, since I'm busily trying to put my PhD thesis together. If you feel starved of Bradbury-related posts, don't forget to take a look at the Facebook page of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, which I also administer. There's usually a couple of quick posts a day on there.

Happy Halloween, and: Onward!

Monday, August 22, 2016

96 Years Ago...

Ninety-six years ago in Waukegan, Illinois, Ray Douglas Bradbury was born.

People sometimes ask me why Bradbury was important. There are all sorts of answers to that, some of them to do with him as an author, some of them to do with him in relation to the world, and some of them just down to personal taste.

The best answers I can give are these:

Innovation. Long after gothic fiction had grown tired, irrelevant and formulaic, Ray Bradbury was reinventing it as modern horror. He presented contemporary people in the contemporary world who became obsessed by, and frightened of, everyday horrors. Crowds. Your own skeleton. The wind. I refer you to those masterpieces of short fiction, "The Crowd", "Skeleton" and "The Wind." Without Ray Bradbury, there is no contemporary horror fiction. Stephen King has admitted as much. If you aren't familiar with this Ray Bradbury, check out his The October Country.

Reflection. When science fiction had become a genre, the staple of American pulp magazines of the 1930s and 1940s, Bradbury took its clichés and its tropes and used them to do something other than fantasize about conquering alien races. He blended SF with horror and reflected our fantasies and fears, in stories like "Mars is Heaven!" He considered the complexity of colonialism, by reflecting on what it means to be the conquering race in stories such as "And The Moon Be Still As Bright" and "The Million-Year Picnic".

Write what energises you. When other writers were content to write for the market, churning out fiction that merely fed back into the pulps the same tired ideas that had originated there, he chose to write for himself - and let the stories find their own market. Because his writing was of quality, he soon emerged from the pulp ghetto into the so-called "quality" magazines. By so doing he was able to take his fantasies and horrors to the mainstream, where genteel magazines such as Mademoiselle found themselves challenged to accept new story forms.

Write clearly, visually. As a writer of efficient, transparent prose, he soon realised that his style should lend itself to screenwriting, and began creating TV and film versions of his works for Alfred Hitchcock , Rod Serling and others, and became a dramatist for John Huston, Carol Reed and Hecht-Hill-Lancaster. He put up with the disappointments of working in Hollywood (where most film scripts end up gathering dust on a shelf) because he loved the excitement of conceiving and re-conceiving ideas for different media. And, perhaps, because Hollywood paid him well, even while it treated him badly.

Head and heart, in equal measure. He occasionally turned out some clunkers, as all writers do. But he also kept everything that didn't sell, and would go back to his earlier manuscripts, eager to fix them. He allowed the public to believe that his stories came easily and unbidden, that he wrote without thinking because intellectualising was anti-creative. But the reality was that he was a shrewd editor who knew how to take out this wrong word, or to move up this powerful paragraph; or to speed up the pace, or slow things down. He summed up his process metaphorically as "Throw up in the morning, clean up at noon". By which he meant put the story down as it comes, without letting your conscious thoughts get in the way; and later return to what you have written and let your intellect make the cool decisions of what to cut, what to re-write.

Scenes. If Bradbury's fiction loses its way, which it sometimes does, it's in the longer pieces. In the short form, I firmly believe that he reached perfection in some stories. But even the longer fiction had stunning scenes. The martyring of the old lady in Fahrenheit 451 is perfect. Will and Jim hiding down in the drain while Mr Dark and Mr Halloway talk above it is perfect in Something Wicked This Way Comes, as is the carnival that sets itself up by night. What's been most fascinating for me, as I have studied Bradbury's manuscripts, is how often he will stumble across a scene idea in one draft which will then be improved in the next draft, even while the context of the scene is changed. Then, when he takes the work into another medium (adapting it for film or stage, for example) he will re-work the overall story but still find a place for those perfected scenes.

And if you need more reasons for thinking highly of Ray Bradbury, I can give you a random list:

"A Sound of Thunder"
"The Veldt"
"The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl"
Fahrenheit 451
The Martian Chronicles
"The Jar"
"The Burning Man"
"The Messiah"
"The Toynbee Convector".

Today in Los Angeles, to celebrate Ray Bradbury's 96th birthday, many friends (and family) of Bradbury are gathering to read his stories, poems and essays. "The Ray Bradbury Read" is taking place right outside the LA central library, adjacent to Ray Bradbury Square. I can't be there, on account of living on a whole 'nother continent, but I heartily recommend it to those who might happen to be in SoCal.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Les Spectateurs: a short Bradburyesque film

Les Spectateurs is a beautiful, Bradburyesque short film made by students at ArtFX in Montpelier, France. While the story is original, some of visuals and the mood of the film have strong echoes of Ray Bradbury - and Ray is listed among the acknowledgments at the end of the film.

The film is set on a "mega-satellite" orbiting Earth, but the satellite is soon to break away from Earth and make a new start. The inhabitants are given a last opportunity to return to Earth, before the breakaway takes place. We follow one couple, and especially one woman, who longs for Earth, but is unable leave.

The film is built upon a vast amount of CGI work, and this is fundamental to the story. Some of the CGI establishes the physical set-up of the satellite in relation to the Earth, Moon and Sun. But the more important CGI work creates the entire small town that the people live in, with their American-style suburbia. It's so well done that on first viewing you won't even realise that much of what you see is computer-generated.

So what of the Bradbury connection? Look for the visuals of the rocket ships heading back for Earth, and see if that doesn't remind you of The Martian Chronicles, especially the section of Bradbury's book when the atomic war has broken out back on Earth and there is a mad rush to return.

Look also for the melancholy tone of the relationship of the couple, and see if this doesn't remind you of any number of Bradbury shorts, from "The Rocket Man" or "The Last Night of the World". The film's subtitle is "saudade", which means "a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia". You can't get more Bradbury than that. The film also has a good central metaphor (which I won't spoil) which has no direct connection to Bradbury that I can think of, but which made me think of Bradbury.

It's not a perfect film by any means. The woman's depressed state needs a bit more fleshing out (why doesn't she just get on the first available rocket and go?), and some of the technology is out of whack (wind turbines on a space station?) - but it's a short piece and there's lots about it to like.

Here's the film itself, and below it is a very breezy "making of" feature. This is amazing work for a team of students.

// ArtFX OFFICIEL // Les Spectateurs from ArtFX OFFICIEL on Vimeo.

// ArtFX OFFICIEL // Les Spectateurs MAKING-OF from ArtFX OFFICIEL on Vimeo.

Friday, July 15, 2016

FAHRENHEIT 451 dropped by the Big Read

It's disappointing to see that Fahrenheit 451 has been dropped from the Big Read programme.

NEA - the USA's National Endowment for the Arts - has been running the community literacy scheme for years, and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 has long been a popular inclusion. Ray even made a short documentary for the NEA back in 2008, in which he talked about the genesis of F451 and why it is a significant work that speaks out for literacy and against censorship.

It's hard to complain about the new batch of books, which has been drawn up in a deliberate effort to enhance the diversity of authors and voices in the list. But it's sad to see such a classic and popular work, one that chimes so directly with the aims of The Big Read, being turned aside.
The full list of twenty-eight books in the new scheme can be viewed here:

And here's Ray Bradbury talking about his masterpiece, and promoting The Big Read.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Gone, But Not Forgotten

It's four years to the day since Ray Bradbury died. But he's still in the public consciousness, as this question from ABC's game show 500 Questions demonstrates. With thanks to jkt for the photo.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Fahrenheit 451 50th Anniversary Screening

Last night was the special 50th Anniversary Screening of Fahrenheit 451 at Wolverhampton's Light House Cinema, and it was a well attended event.

I introduced the film, attempting to place it in a proper historical context. After the screening, I was joined by my colleague, film lecturer Eleanor Andrews, to discuss what we had seen, and to take comments and questions from the audience.

Some interesting observations emerged, both familiar and new. Eleanor was struck by the overall aesthetic of the film, which she compared to 1960s TV classics such as The Avengers and The Prisoner. Various people were taken by the boldness of the film's elimination of text (except for what we see in the prohibited books). And a number of people commented on the drug-taking, zombie-like characters who are shown to be the norm in Fahrenheit.

As so often when I screen this film, I was somewhat taken aback by viewers' willingness to overlook or forgive some of the technical weaknesses of the film, largely because of the strong ideas which the film manages (or struggles) to convey.We spent much of the time discussing the quality of the acting, the apparent consequences in the film of the loss of literacy (characters struggle to remember things, struggle to communicate, and struggle to manage their emotions), differences between book and film, and how the film relates to other works by Truffaut.

The last time I watched the film all the way through was with an audience at the Ray Bradbury on Screen event in Indiana, which I co-curated last year. Both audiences seem to have appreciated the film's ideas, but both audiences seem to have found the character relationships confusing or disturbing. One of the big debates is whether this is what the film is really about, or whether this is some reflection on its troubled production history. I have written before that the alienating effect is to a large extent deliberate, as is evidenced by Truffaut and Jean-Louis Richard's screenplay - but that the actual performances add a layer of complication that is probably not fully intended. By this I'm referring to Oskar Werner's heavily-accented delivery, and Julie Christie's struggle to maintain any nuance of difference between the two characters she plays.

Going into this event, I had no idea what audience we might find. I half-expected to be talking to a mere handful of viewers, but the small venue was actually quite full. I'm told that the audience was much bigger than most of the introduced film screenings offered in last year's Artsfest.

After fifty years, Truffaut's film still holds up, particularly when considered as a reflection of the era in which it was made. But there are so many elements of Bradbury's novel that the 1966 film left to one side. Fingers crossed that the forthcoming HBO adaptation will give us a new screen version that is as challenging, and as relevant to present times.

Later this year, I have another Fahrenheit 451 project going public: the special issue of The New Ray Bradbury Review which I have been editing. This contains a number of articles considering the representation of books and texts in the film, some that consider the reception of the film by contemporary and modern audiences, and my own article on Ray Bradbury's responses to Truffaut's film. The issue is due out in October, but is available for pre-order now.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Fahrenheit 451 - 50th Anniversary Screening

On Tuesday 24th May, I will be introducing a screening of Truffaut's 1966 film of Fahrenheit 451, at Light House Cinema in Wolverhampton, UK. It all ties together with the 50th anniversary of the film's release, and the forthcoming issue of The New Ray Bradbury Review that I am editing.

If you're thinking of traveling to the event, the venue is a five-minute walk from Wolverhampton rail station and bus station. And Wolverhampton rail station is on the "west coast main line", about a twenty-minute journey from Birmingham New Street.

Here's a little poster (click to enlarge):

Friday, April 15, 2016

Ray Bradbury and the Oscars

Ray Bradbury never won an Oscar, but in 1963 he came close.

The 1962 short film Icarus Montgolfier Wright, which animated hundreds of Joe Mugnaini's paintings, was written for the screen by Ray Bradbury and George Clayton Johnson, and based of course on Ray's short story. It was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Short Film, and the award would have gone to producer Jules Engel. But on the night, the award went instead to John and Faith Hubley for The Hole.

Here's the announcement of the nominees and winner, from actor Van Heflin:

You can watch the Hubleys' film here:

And you can watch Icarus here:


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fahrenheit 451 - new adaptation mooted

Breaking news: HBO is apparently developing a new adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's best known and most successful novel. This comes after two decades of on-again off-again "development hell" from Mel Gibson's Icon Pictures, the previous holder of the screen rights to the property.

Ramin Bahrani has been identified as the writer-director of the proposed new version. He has a good track record by all accounts, with a number of award nominations and some critical acclaim for his previous work:

As always, I caution people not to get too excited over announced adaptations. Many of them come to nothing. Remember the supposed remakes of The Illustrated Man and Something Wicked This Way Comes? No? That's because they both stalled, like Fahrenheit 451 did the last time we heard about it (F451 was in the hands of the highly bankable Frank Darabont, and even that came to nothing, despite a smart, strong and modern script).

Read more here:

Monday, March 14, 2016

Bradbury Read - event in Los Angeles

I'm pleased to announce that I have been invited to join the advisory board for The Ray Bradbury Read, an event scheduled for Ray's birthday, 22nd August. It will take place in Maguire Gardens, adjacent to Ray's beloved Los Angeles Library, and Ray Bradbury Square - the intersection named in Ray's honour in 2012.

The event is the work of Steven Paul Leiva, who was instrumental in the naming of Ray Bradbury Square and in the creation of Ray Bradbury Week in 2010.

Full details of the event can be found on Steven's blog, here:

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Another Bradbury Reference from The Simpsons

There's something of a Bradburyan influence on the latest episode of The Simpsons, due to air today in the US. According to the Simpsons Wiki:

"Not feeling unique, Lisa signs up for the Mars One Space Colony – to Marge's dismay. Then, Marge hires Bart to go through the tryout process with Lisa to make her want to quit."
It's called (wait for it!) ... "The Marge-ian Chronicles."

OK, the Bradbury reference is tenuous, but it's far from the first. Other references are documented here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

David G. Hartwell

In a strange echo of what happened with George Clayton Johnson, there have been announcements - followed by rapid retractions - of the death of Hugo Award-winning editor and critic David G. Hartwell. He evidently suffered a massive stroke.

I once sat on a conference panel with David, although my interaction with him was minimal. But I am very familiar with his work. The "Timescape" imprint he started at Pocket Books in the 1980s gave me plenty of quality reading back in the day, and that accounts for only a tiny proportion of his career's work. You can read about this influential SF figure here:

This photo shows the panel at the 2008 Eaton Conference at University of California Riverside where I met David. Left to right: Paul Alkon, David G. Hartwell, Eric Palfreyman​ and me. The theme of the panel was the Mars and Ray Bradbury, and the whole conference was entitled "Chronicling Mars".